Brainstorms are an integral part of our strategy model that not only guarantee innovative stories but bring harmony to our staff’s goals. Every week our team meets virtually, connecting the East and West coasts in order to have a fruitful session of idea ping pong. Sometimes concepts come easier, sometimes it takes more time, but either way, we’ve found that collective brainstorming allows the creative gold to shine. Our Editorial Director, Rick Maughan, shares his top 5 to-do’s for a successful brainstorm:

1.    Focus – it sounds obvious but the lure of checking emails or worrying about other work is a huge creative block and it sneaks up on you. It causes distractions or leads to people being disengaged which quickly floods the room. Try a phone and laptop-free environment, excuse people who can’t properly commit and generate a buzzy room even if you need to reduce the length of the session.

2.    Free speech foster an environment where any voice is heard and people are encouraged to speak up. There’s no such thing as a bad idea and people have to feel they will not be judged no matter how zany or far-fetched their suggestion may be. Know your team – some are more introverted, some are louder but good ideas come from all types of people so ensure you aren’t alienating anyone. Your collaboration is only effective if the quietest person in the room feels comfortable enough to contribute.

3.    Talk value – sometimes pinpointing an idea can be tough but you know you’re in the right area if the topic or pitch inspires people to offer up their own anecdotes. If people want to talk about it and it spawns lively conversation you know you have an engaging area it’s just about honing the idea. Be wary of straying far off brief, but some of the best ideas we generate come when we realize we’ve slipped into fun stories that see everyone wanting to jump in and share their personal take or experience. Similarly, if stuck on a brief simply getting people talking loosely throws up directions that didn’t first seem apparent.

4.    Devil’s advocate – every idea is valid but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge or question concepts to check they are robust. If every single suggestion is met with a ‘that’s great!’ it won’t be useful in producing sharp creative. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into someone’s idea and ask them things that stretch or test whether it would be successful. It’s important to weed out wispy or half-baked ideas early and this may see them morph into stronger concepts.

5.    Time and place – it’s important not to limit creative contributions to just inside the four walls of the brainstorm. People come to ideas differently and sometimes our subconscious thought likes to mull things over and throws a gem while we’re in the shower or on the commute. It’s crucial to have deadlines but it can be useful to have a window after the storm before submitting final concepts where people can follow up with extra thoughts or ideas that occurred to them after the brainstorm.

It’s easy to overlook and underestimate the power of a good brainstorm and what fresh perspectives you can discover with a simple back and forth with your team. When it comes to delivering for your client, you want to always bring forth the most robust stories and that takes the courage of thinking outside the box. Brainstorming is not just about randomly shouting out words in a room with your colleagues. It’s about creating plans together as a team, opening doors, problem solving, and building on each other’s suggestions. That is where the true magic comes from.

Now that you’ve gotten some quality intel, go ahead, don’t be shy and let those ideas flow with your teams, friends, and clients. Hey, maybe with some effective brainstorming you’ll know where to eat dinner when your significant other asks you.

Happy Storming!